How to Overcome Adversity

How to overcome adversity…

That’s a pretty tall order for a single article and not something that we can ever degree with any certainty. Adversity can take any different forms and can challenge us in many different ways depending on who we are and our circumstances.

You might be reading this wondering how to overcome your debt, or you might be wondering how you can stop slugs coming into your house. That latter point is my current adversity. It’s way more stressful than it sounds…

Adversity is simply a part of life and it’s something that all of us have to cope with at some point. The form it takes is unique to all of us but it is actually essential that it exists to some degree in order to ensure our psychological and physical development, if nothing else.

While no one can provide a single solution to every kind of challenge though, there are certainly strategies and psychological techniques and approaches that you can adopt in order to improve your chances of success. In this post, we’ll look at some of your best options and techniques that you can apply to many of life’s challenges and many forms of adversity.

The Right Mental Attitude

The first thing to do, is to ensure that you adopt the right mental attitude and the right approach to your problems.

That is to say, that you need to gain perspective and to shift your thinking in your favor.

We can see an example of why this is so important when we consider learned helplessness. This is one of the ultimate examples of the power of mindset.

In learned helplessness, victims learn that they are helpless through one means or another and then become unable to defend themselves or to push themselves. This is a method used by some elephant breeders who traditionally would tie the elephants up when they were young. The elephants would pull against the rope and strain to try and break free but being only baby elephants, they would inevitably prove unsuccessful. They’d try again and again and eventually they’d learn that they were helpless…

…and for that reason, when the elephants were full-grown, they would continue to believe they were helpless. Thus they would not try and tug against the rope, even though they were now big enough and strong enough to break free if they did! It sounds cheesy but all that they lacked was belief.

This happens to us too, whether it means learning that no one can love us, learning that we can’t succeed in our careers, or learning that we are stupid. What’s important is that we don’t let this belief trap us and that we break free from it.

To do that, we need to remember a few things.

First, remember that every time you attempt something, you learn from that experience. Thus, you will get slightly better and become slightly more likely to be successful the next time.

If you keep going to interviews and keep getting turned down, then you will learn something each time. Thus the odds of you succeeding will go up with each new interview!

And this truth is enhanced further if you actively take the time to train and to make yourself better at whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve.

Remember too that you can’t physically fail until you completely stop trying. If you fail and try again, then that failure is nothing more than a rehearsal. If you fail and then completely give up, then you have been defeated.

View each failure as a challenge too, as a chance to test your will, as a chance to test your strength, as a chance to test your smarts. The tougher the challenge, the bigger the odds, the more ass you will be able to kick!

Whenever you have a set-back you have two options:

  • Give up
  • Try again and try harder

Those are your only two options. So decide which one you find more appealing.

Ask for Help

If you are facing adversity in your life and if you are struggling to overcome it, then sometimes repeatedly trying the same thing is not the best strategy.

And that is particularly true if you have the option to ask others for help. Very often we mistakenly feel as though we have to do things ourselves, as though asking for help is the same as giving up, or is somehow ‘cheating’. We don’t like asking for help because we feel that we’re putting others out of their way, or just because it is not what we’re used to doing.

But depending on the situation you’re in, asking for help is often simply the smartest strategy. This is what friends and relatives are for. We socialize and form groups because there is strength in numbers. By allying yourself with others, you can gain the combined strength of all your friends, the combined wisdom, the combined funds and the combined time. When the time comes, you will repay that kindness and do the same for your friends.

Don’t be afraid then to ask your loved ones for help. If you’re struggling with debt, then ask your parents for a loan. It’s far preferable to taking out a bank loan. If you’re unwell and you’re struggling to handle all of your responsibilities, then ask friends if they can pick up some of the slack. If you’re struggling with your career, then ask a friend if they know of any job opportunities.

This is easier than ever thanks to social media too. There is no harm in surveying your friends and asking everyone on your contacts list if they can help, if they have what you need, or if they know of anyone else who can help. A network is an incredibly powerful resource so do not be afraid to use it!

And asking for help can also mean asking people who are not your friends. It might mean turning toward an organization for example, or a charity. If you’re struggling with arthritis, seek help from a charity. If you’re struggling with depression, call the Samaritans. These groups are there to help and there is absolutely no shame in turning to them. In fact, it takes incredible strength and it is often the smartest thing you can do.

Apart from anything else, it is better to turn to a charity now out of your own choice, than to have someone else pick you up and take you there.

Be Proactive

Going to a charity and asking for help is a great example of proactively trying to solve your problems – of taking decisive and positive action rather than waiting for a solution to present itself.

This is another of the most important tips to bear in mind when coping with diversity. Don’t constantly put out fires – make positive changes that let you make progress and move forward. Don’t wait for things to become intolerable but learn from your situation and use it to cope with the upcoming problems.

A friend of mind is going through a hard time in their personal life, right at a time when the pressure has started to really pick up in their workplace. Rather than making the mistake of waiting until they are signed off with stress, they have discussed reducing their hours with their employer. They went and explained that while they are currently coping, they are also approaching burnout and that they would rather pre-empt and prevent a nervous breakdown rather than waiting until one happens and then trying to pick up the pieces.

This is an example both of being proactive and of consulting others for help rather than trying to go it alone.

Think Outside the Box

This can also be seen as an example of thinking outside the box. There is very often more than one solution to a problem and if you are simply trying to use the same strategy time and time again – if you are taking a ‘brute force’ approach to the situation – then eventually, you are likely to find that you tire out and that things get on top of you.

Instead then, it can sometimes be preferable to take a more ‘outside the box’ approach and to think if there are perhaps options you hadn’t considered.

Very often we are led to belief that a problem has only one solution, or only two outcomes. We often feel as though we have no choice.

But in reality, we often have a LOT of choice. Are there angles you didn’t consider?

If your home is falling apart, did you consider staying with your parents? If you are struggling financially, then have you considered taking out a loan through PayPal? This isn’t advice, it’s just an example of the kinds of less-obvious answers to common problems.

Struggling to choose between two difficult situations? Then perhaps there’s a way that you can manage to do both?

One way to make sure you aren’t missing out on any potential answers is often to make a long list of all the resources available to you. Write down everything you own, all the contacts you have, all your experience and see if you can use that to come up with a new answer.

And sometimes one of the smartest things you can do is simply to walk away. That won’t always be an option but if you’re facing stress in the work place for example, or if you’re in a difficult relationship, then maybe it’s time to think about option 3: taking your things and starting anew.

Don’t let anyone else define your options.

Stay Positive, Focus on the Good

While it’s easier said than done and can even risk sounding unsympathetic or naïve, it’s always important to focus on the positive and on the good in our situation.

Sometimes, when we’re facing adversity, it can seem impossibly big. That challenge can seem to take up the entirety of our thought process, the entirety of our lives. It can seem like there is nothing but adversity.

But this is not true. No matter who you are, there are things you have to be happy about. Things that you can be positive about. That might be a roof over your head, it might be friends, or it might be some aspect of yourself that you are happy with.

If you stay wrapped up in the negative and in the downsides, then you can find they become overwhelming – you learn that helplessness. But if you focus on that positives, if you stay thankful and grateful for what you have, then you can draw power from that.

Whenever you’re feeling down, remind yourself of the things you’ve accomplished, the things you have to be grateful for and the things you have to look forward to.

Have Courage

Finally, have the courage to stand up to your adversity. Many of us when faced with challenge will want to bury our heads in the sand and we will want to take the easiest route until the storm has passed.

Being proactive can be scary. It can often mean putting yourself out there, admitting your fear and risking losing even more.

But now it’s time to get real and to reflect once again on your options. Don’t be afraid of the potentially negative outcome of facing your challenges and your fears. Be afraid of the potential negative outcome of not facing your fear.

If you don’t do anything about your situation, then it will persist. Whatever it is that is currently making you unhappy will continue and your situation will not improve – you could continue to live in this reality forever. But if you take a chance by quitting your job, by admitting you’re unwell, by asking for help, by moving town – then you at least create the possibility of a positive outcome and you at least diminish the fear by standing up to it.

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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

Follow Adam on Linkedin: adam-sinicki, twitter: thebioneer, facebook: adam.sinicki and youtube: treehousefrog

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